Overdue spring cleaning

I spent the weekend on my hands and knees cleaning out my closet, room.  My closet was full of items including clothes dating back to high school, three softballs, a first place spelling bee trophy, mixed items from past Halloween costumes, dust and more.

After three days of Pledge, a vacuum and several discarded items, I am the owner of one very clean room.

The motivation of the late “spring” cleaning was my allergies. They have been awful this spring and summer and I’m determined to find out what is causing them. The pollen count is high this year and I’m hoping the deep clean improves the issue.

Although I haven’t seen any improvement yet, I’m optimistic that will change. In the meantime with my extra space for activities I have packed a gym bag and healthy lunch for tomorrow, organized my DVD and book collection, Facetimed with a friend, picked out an outfit for tomorrow and am writing this blog post. 😉 Cleaning can be good, right? At least that’s what I am telling myself.

Now I think I’ll play with a rad bouncy ball I found in the bottom of my closet. Just kidding…Kind of.

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A conversation with a teacher

Next in the series, collecting conversations,  I spoke with a teacher who not only has advice for twenty-something prospective teachers, but also isn’t afraid to participate in a 30-second Adele dance party.

Joan (pronounced Jo-Anne) is a science teacher who has the patience to work with seventh and eighth grade students daily. I would say that in itself is an accomplishment.

Joan has been teaching for 20 years. She spent the first nine years as a fifth grade teacher and next 11 in middle school science. She decided to go in to teaching when she was 26 years old and finished her degree when she was 31 years old.

“I was working in a dead end job as a secretary for a psychiatrist,” she said. “The therapists were loonier than the patients and I knew I wanted a degree and thought teaching would be interesting.”

Fast forward, Joan is in her early 50s and has experienced several ups and downs in the classroom. She has witnessed the change that comes with teaching.

“Even in just 20 years of teaching I have witnessed how much requirements are changing,” she said. “The system is standardized, rigid and students are now required to do so much testing.”

She said the best part of her job is the atmosphere of a school and the people she works with. The worst part of her job is dealing with parents who doesn’t believe their children can do wrong.

And as for her classroom, she said middle school students will always be middle school students.

“I’m  haunted by a child who has been eating boogers in my classroom this year,” she said.

Joan clarified seventh and eighth graders do, in fact, still exchange notes. She said she confiscates a lot but one that stuck out last year was a series of 80 questions between two individuals and one of the questions was “who invented masturbation?”

“I can’t make this stuff up,” she said.

Joan said advice she would give to twenty-something  teachers is to investigate requirements such as continuing education that will be required in the coming years and make sure it’s what he/she wants to do. She said she would also tell prospective teachers to be accountable and document curriculum covered in the classroom.

When asked if she thought new teachers knew what they were getting in to, she replied, “probably not, but I think that’s true of any job when you’re first starting out.”

The coolest lab (laboratory experiment) Joan has ever had in her class is an annual hot air balloon lab where students are required to make 6-feet tall hot air balloons out of tissue paper and launch them, with the help of faculty, using a gas grill.

Joan said the once piece of advice she says throughout each school years to students is that life is all about the choices you make.

In the future, Joan sees teaching becoming strictly computer, technology based. She said she wonders if teachers will become more like facilitators and students will do more online.

A look at a few of the questions
If someone asked you to participate in a thirty-second Adele dance party would you do it? Absolutely. (We then had a 30 second dance party to Rolling in the Deep)
What is something people don’t know about teaching?
I don’t think people truly know how much time we put in or how much of our own money we spend, especially grade-school teachers
How do you decide what age to focus on as a teacher?
Age is personal preference because some people can work better with younger kids more than older kids or vice versa. I did elementary education with a junior high endorsement in science. I have been happy with the age. I don’t like teaching high school students because they think they know everything.
Proudest moment?
Giving birth to my kids (She has two children in their twenties)
Scariest thing you’ve ever done?
Giving birth to my kids
Favorite genre, author, and book? Favorite movie you’ve seen lately?
Mystery/thriller, Harlan Coben and To Kill a Mocking Bird. Silver Linings Playbook.

A conversation with a writer

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I’m happy to introduce my first interview of the series Collecting Conversations. First up to the plate is Andrea, a 25-year-old freelance technical writer who writes textbooks on Microsoft Office software. She has a writing degree from the University of Tampa and hopes to be successful at creative writing one day.

The best part of her job is she gets to work from home and doesn’t have to deal with office politics. Also, Andrea’s name can be found on Microsoft Office software textbooks. Cool, right?

After years of writing before, during and after college, Andrea has a lot of knowledge to share on the subject.

Andrea doesn’t remember the exact moment she began writing, but she remembers being young.

“I’ve always been a reader. As a kid I would carry books with me everywhere I went (and I still do),” she said. “I guess one day I decided I wanted to try writing.”

She enjoys both fiction and poetry. Ultimately she wants to write fiction but she loves poetry and doesn’t want to stop writing it.

Her proudest writing accomplishment has been having poems published in an online journal.

“To me having my own work published is a much bigger accomplishment than getting my name on a book I wrote for someone else,” she said. “I will always remember the first time my own words were published.”

She has learned she can survive writing boot camp.

Andrea finds it harder to start writing than keep writing. She recalls her first year of college as a writing major and refers to it as boot camp, saying it was hard to be vulnerable.

“You spend a lot of time writing your deepest most intimate thoughts and then listen to everyone bash it to pieces,” she said. “If you can take that criticism and weed out the crap and let the rest of it help you then I think you’ll have a much easier time to keep writing.”

She doesn’t keep a writing schedule but wishes she did saying, “I’m just not to the point where I can sit down and say ‘I will write now.’ It doesn’t work that way for me.”

She has learned it’s hard to make time for writing.

“Life gets in the way of most things, but I think if you really have a passion for it, you will make the time,” she said.

Her childhood has been her biggest inspiration. She said she remembers random, insignificant moments from being a child and turns those moments into a story or poem.

She learned not to give up.

There comes a point when most people who have dipped their feet in to writing want to give up. Andrea said she almost gives up everyday, but by sticking with it, her writing improves.

“I’m a perfectionist who could spend an entire day rewriting a sentence,” she said. “I stick with it because nothing makes me happier than that moment when I find the right words to express what I’m trying to say.”

We ended the conversation with advice she would tell other writers or aspiring writers.

“I think you can’t be afraid to write in a medium or genre that you don’t like. I never thought I would ever become a technical writer but I actually enjoy it and it helps my other writing,” she said. “I would also say to really get into poetry. So many writers seem to want to write fiction but never get in to poetry. Learning how to write poems help make your fiction stronger, they go hand-in-hand.”

A look at a few of the questions:
What is the best advice you’ve ever received on writing?
I had a professor tell me that words fail and that once you get over that it becomes a lot easier. I didn’t get it at first but now that I do I’ve had a much easier time writing.
and the worst piece of advice you’ve received?
I think most advice is bad when it comes to art. I’ve been told to not write offensive things, which to me is ridiculous. Life is offensive.
What is your favorite book, short story and poem?
My favorite book of all time is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I read it all of the time and each time I find something new to love. My favorite short story is a tie between White Angel by Michael Cunningham and Dance in America by Lorrie Moore. And my favorite poem is This Hour and What Is Dead by Li-Young Lee (honestly I love anything by him).
Best movie you’ve seen lately that was adapted from a book?
Stand by Me is my favorite movie of all time. It was adapted from a Stephen King story. I did just see The Perks of Being a Wallflower and thought it was an amazing adaptation. I love both the book and the movie.

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Week favorites

Here are some of my favorite things I’m reading, watching, looking forward to etc. at the moment (meaning this week, not this exact second).

Book I’m reading: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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What just played on my Itunes playlist: I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight by The Outfield

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Favorite inspirational sayings this week (I have two)

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Last magazine I purchased: March edition of Vogue; Beyoncé is on the cover

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Workout of the week: Complete body workout, a five-disk DVD collection by Jillian Michaels

Favorite Dr. Seuss quote (in honor of the March 2 birthday): “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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Favorite “not impressed” face: President Obama and gymnast McKayla Maroney

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Last movie I saw in theater: Snitch

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Essie nail color: Butler, please

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Indiana University basketball will face Ohio State on senior night. Derek Elston, Christian Watford and Jordy Hulls are pictured below.

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And the moment that touched my heart this week: A high school basketball player threw the ball inbound to the opposing team’s manager, a boy with a developmental disability, so he could score a basket. It was a moment of true sportsmanship. The manager made the basket and the crowd rushed the court. It gave me chills.

Unopened magazines

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I have a bad habit of buying several magazines before I can open one of them.

For instance right now I have unopened copies of Vogue, Self, Glamour, Fitness and Vanity Fair sitting on my bedroom floor.

Something about all of these magazines convinces me I need to buy them. Reasons range from a strong, independent person on the cover who I admire, a good work-out plan or a special, holiday issue.

I also have a habit of leaving my room messier than it should be because I spent the day working or because I don’t have time to clean it.

Usually I don’t think twice about this, but I read something recently – I believe on Thought Catalog – that said something like  “don’t use being busy as an excuse to be lazy.”

Just because I worked during the week and have been busy this weekend helping my mother after she had foot surgery doesn’t mean I should use that as an excuse to be lazy.

So for tonight I hung up a few clothes and opened up a “new” magazine. Take me away Vanity Fair comedy issue.